Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Maryland Racing Commission to decide how tracks will split slots cash

The Maryland Racing Commission said Wednesday it will create rules for how it’s going to split up money from the state’s casinos that is ticketed for Maryland’s two harness racetracks.

According to state law, 9.5 percent of total slots money goes to both thoroughbred and harness tracks for purses and for facility upgrades. The racing commission, which is in charge of dividing up the money, has to give 80 percent to Pimlico Race Course, Laurel Park and Timonium Race Track, and 20 percent to Rosecroft Raceway and Ocean Downs.

Through May, the state has earned $332,355 for racetrack improvements from its two casinos in Worcester and Cecil counties.

The state first has to repay up to $4 million to the Maryland Economic Development Corp. because of the money the group loaned to the tracks last year. But how the commission will split the money between Rosecroft and Ocean Downs after repaying Medco is unclear, racetrack and commission officials said during Wednesday’s commission meeting.

Commission officials suggested that the owners of Rosecroft would receive money for the days after its racing license is approved. But Ocean Downs officials said at the meeting that they should not have to share money with Rosecroft until the Prince George’s County facility actually starts live racing. Ocean Downs started its 40 days of live racing this year June 19.

“It needs to be written down to clarify that,” said commission member Mary Louise Preis. “This is not a clearly thoughtful process, and it needs to be settled, I think. That makes me nervous, this is state money.”

Maryland Racing Commission Executive Director J. Michael Hopkins and commission Senior Assistant Attorney General Bruce C. Spizler will create regulations to be presented before the next commission meeting on how and when the slots money will be distributed between Rosecroft and Ocean Downs.

The Maryland Racing Commission will hold a hearing on Rosecroft Raceway’s application for a racing license July 6. But in its application, Penn National Gaming Inc., which owns Rosecroft, wanted to start racing Friday. The application asked for 20 days of live racing in the fall and 54 days of live racing in 2012.

Meanwhile, the deadline for the Maryland Jockey Club to reach a simulcasting race deal with Rosecroft Raceway is Friday. But the prospect of reaching a settlement by the deadline seems dim.

Penn National presented a proposal to the thoroughbred industry in March that included a 50-50 split of all net simulcasting money produced at Rosecroft on thoroughbred races from out of state. The Pennsylvania-based company has yet to receive a response, spokesman D. Eric Schippers said Wednesday in an emailed response to questions.

“We’re shocked and disappointed that the other side has yet to respond,” Schippers said. “It would appear the thoroughbred industry has no intention of entering into a good faith discussion prior to [Friday].”

Officials from the thoroughbred industry did not return phone calls for comment.

The jockey club has to reach the deal to simulcast races to be eligible for $6 million in operating subsidies in 2012, under legislation passed in the 2011 General Assembly session.

To qualify for another year of state assistance, the club would have to craft a sustainable plan with horse breeders and owners for the future of the industry that lawmakers find acceptable. That plan is due Dec. 1.

The legislation requires binding arbitration if an agreement for simulcasting of thoroughbred races is not reached by Oct. 1. The Maryland Racing Commission will have to approve the agreement, but Hopkins and Spizler said they had not heard of any progress on the agreement.